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Feb 22, 2018
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Around York County

Marlbank Cove During the Civil War

George Washington�s siege of Yorktown in 1781 was the first such siege and the most well known, but in May 1862 Yorktown again found itself surrounded by armies locked in combat.  The area around Marlbank Cove saw a great deal of military activity as a result.  Below are several photographs taken in the May 1862 time frame.
Union forces led by General George McClelland and advancing from the vicinity of Fort Monroe (which never fell into Confederate hands and therefore served as a Union foothold and staging ground for campaigns against Richmond throughout the Civil War) encountered Confederate forces, led first by General John Magruder and then Joesph E. Johnston, who manned a line of defenses spanning from the James-Warwick River confluence near today�s Fort Eustis to the York River, with concentrated forces around Yorktown.  The Southern troops utilized many of the same embankments first dug by British forces during the Revolutionary War.  Evidence of the Confederate works, especially shallow, long-running communications trenches, can be found in the woods of the National Park and running into Newport News Park.
A period map shows the location of Gen McClelland�s tent as being in the immediate area of Marlbank Cove, very close to where McClelland Court lies (the actual site appears closer to the intersection of Marlbank Drive and Three Point Court).  The pictures below show a close-up of McClelland�s tent, as well as a broader view of the encampment, which was named Camp Winfield Scott.  Also shown is a picture with a young George Armstrong Custer and two fellow Lieutenants.  A historical marker on the Colonial Parkway near the current Naval Weapons Station notes that Custer operated in the immediate area, taking bluffs overlooking a creek between Yorktown and Williamsburg. The location of the 13-inch seacoast mortars, which are identified as being on �the right side of Wormley�s Creek,� is probably on the current site of the Coast Guard Station, on the finger of water upon which the station�s chapel now stands.  A period map depicts a battery of that size mortar located on the bank opposite the site of the chapel.
Also of interest is the picture of the Moore House, site of the negotiations of the surrender of Cornwallis� troops to Washington, as the house appeared during the Union siege.  Also shown is the Nelson House on Main Street in Yorktown probably shortly after Union forces took over the town and began setting up tents.  Yorktown stayed in Union hands for the remainder of the war, and troops left here no doubt continued to forage the wood and fields of Marlbank, hunting and fishing.  Keep a sharp eye out�you may stumble upon a long lost belt buckle or uniform button.  It has happened. 

A wide area view of the Headquarters for General George B. McClellan, Camp Winfield Scott.

General McClellan's tent in Camp Winfield Scott

13-inch seacoast mortars of Federal Battery No. 4, with officers of the 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery

Group posed before the Photographic Tent in Camp Winfield Scott

The Moore house, outside the Coast Guard station, as it appeared in May 1862 during the Union siege of Yorktown.

Nelson house, Yorktown village, May 1862, after the Union forces took the town.

A young (mere Lieutenant) George Armstrong Custer (at front left) and fellow officers during the Peninsula campaign.  An historical marker on the Colonial Parkway, near the Naval Weapons Station, notes that Custer led a party which took bluffs above a creek between Yorktown and Williamsburg as Union forces worked their way toward Richmond after taking Yorktown.

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